Last year a little proof-of-concept video blew up on reddit bringing the world’s attention to an currently in-development skateboaring game, Project: Session by a newly formed development studio called creā-ture Studios. Since then however the game itself has been through some rough seas with players sharing their frustration that they’ve not seen enough of the game, as well as a Patreon campaign which also came under fire.
Fortunately the team, headed by founder Marc-andré Houde, are in good spirits and see 2016 as a good year for the studio as well as Project: Session itself. We decided to catch up with Houde to find out exactly how things are going and when we can expect to see more things from Project: Session.
First, lets head back to July last year when creā-ture Studios shared the first teaser for Project: Session. Little information came with the trailer but it showed great potential for what could be a fantastic skateboarding title, it even offered a classic wide-angle tape camera effect which was later revealed to be one of the features in the game.
The trailer caught the eye of one reddit user who shared the video with /r/Gaming, and from there it blew up. It’s now spawned its own subreddit where the developers and a community of excited gamers talk about the game, and while the response has mostly been positive, the game has found itself in the firing line of a passionate community wanting to know more about the game. Initially the game was set to launch a Kickstarter campaign, but sadly that hasn’t come into fruition yet. Instead, the developers launched a Patreon campaign which in itself came wrapped in controversy.
Unfortunately for Houde interacting with a community is completely new territory for him and he’s been rapidly learning what to say, and how to say it.
“This is the first time I’ve worked on a project dealing with people, like community-wise, it’s the first time I’ve really interacted with people and stuff like this. I’ve learned a lot about how to say things, what to say, and stuff,” he admitted. “And sometimes you express an idea and it’s read in a totally different way, so I was exposing the concept of using lines, for example, just to help us focus more on the tricks, and people started to think we were an on-rails game, so yeah, we learned a lot on what to say and how to say things.”
“We had some really tough days during the Summer time.”
This of course references back when the team revealed that Project: Session would be a spot-based game, something which many were unsure about as they had worries that it would feel on-rails.
“[The teaser trailer] was the idea for the prototype. It was something to give to the players as a proof of concept, we wanted to put all the energy on showing tricks at specific areas so people can enjoy how it feels, how it’s going to look, but the whole purpose was to make a growing game where you could just play around and have fun doing tricks.”
For the past few months things have been notably quiet on the Project: Session reddit page in terms of updates from the developers, we also planned to set a date for this interview in the later part of 2015, but that didn’t happen, but there’s a good reason, as creā-ture Studios lost one of the core developers from the team who was working on the prototype.
“We had some really tough days during the Summer time,” Houde admitted. “We lost one of the core developers from the team, so it made things extremely difficult, it was actually the programmer who was handling all the gameplay, so it’s been really tough to keep the whole thing going forward.
“Now it’s getting a lot better, we had a small break at the end of Summer because we had put a lot of hours into the project and people were getting really tired and wasted, so we took a small break, about a month-ish, and then we started to think about the Kickstarter campaign and how we can bring it to a decent level so that people can get excited about the project and all these things. We’ve really started to get more people into the project and it’s going well. I would say 2016 is a good year so far.”
With a positive outlook on the year ahead, we wondered whether Houde would have done anything differently given the sheer amount of confusion and frustration that’s been caused with the team changing the spot-based idea to something more open world, not only that, we asked whether simply dropping the trailer out there with no real information to go along with it was really a good idea in the long ruin?
“We just wanted to share the teaser and there was no specific goal other than saying to the community ‘hey we’re making a skateboarding game, it’s going to come’. At that time the prototype was going really well, so we were really confident 2016 would be the date, so yeah,” he admitted. “We didn’t want to put any specific energy on the PR side or anything, we just wanted to go pretty low-profile and just drop that video on YouTube and let it go from there. But someone put it on reddit and from that point it reached 300,000 views in a few weeks. So that was unexpected.
“It was pretty fun when we launched the teaser almost a year ago, we were not expecting [the response] at all. I didn’t think we’d interest that many people so quickly, and we were not prepared at all to receive that sort of feedback, so that was really cool. On the other hand it kind of put a lot of pressure on the team and at that time no one was being paid, it was really difficult to put more energy into it.
“I think if were to re-do it we’d probably do it the same, just because we don’t want to make games like the others. There’s a fun way of having the community really early in the process so people get to know more about the game, the whole concept of the game is really to get the grasp of what people want and what they like, what they don’t, and kind of adapt and adjust the game. It’s been difficult, we had lots of highs and lows with the community, but in the end I think when people get frustrated and super happy, the good news is someone’s getting emotionally involved in the project and what you’re doing has a purpose, so this is cool.”
“We decided from Day One to ditch the scoring concept”
Onto the game itself, it seems creā-ture Studio have settled on the more open-world free skate gameplay, but for the game itself it’ll be much different from skateboarding games we know today, such as Skate and the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series.
“We haven’t had any good skateboarding games in a while, Tony Hawk was fun, Skate and Skate 2 were great, OlliOlli is a little like a 2D version of Tony Hawk which is really fun, and I find myself loading that up often. But I see these games more of combo games with a skateboarding theme,” Houde said.
“Something we want to do is that we’re not aiming directly at making a game itself, we have a philosophy that Project: Session is a toy, something you launch and skate with friends, you do some skate games, or film with your friends, or something like this. This is something that’s going to be a big part of the game, it’ll be mostly online so you can play with friends and they’ll be able to film your tricks with an on-control design for the filmer mode.”
In a crude way, Project: Session is less of a game similar to Skate and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and more of a Skateboarding Sim with less of a focus on points, and more of a focus on performing tricks, creating your own lines, and pulling off some great looking tricks. Houde revealed that there are no plans to add points, there will be no scoring system, just you, your friends, and the open world in which you can skate in.
“We decided from Day One to ditch the scoring concept. There won’t be any points in the game. The reason why we decided to do this was simply because having points and scores in a game affects the way you play because you end up always trying to do crazy tricks to get high scores. So we decided to focus on the tricks and the way it looks on camera.
“It’s all about style, because that’s a big portion of skateboarding. When you go skate, you can try the same trick ten, twenty times, and you can land them but feel like it could look better, so you’d go at it again, you want to do better. It’s part of the sport itself so we decided to put it at the forefront of the game, so it’s really being happy with the tricks you’re doing and really appreciating what you’ve achieved on an aesthetic level.”
Project: Session will hope to harness the creativity of skateboarding in the real world, a freedom of expression. If you wanted to tackle the same stair set for an entire day, you can. Houde said that they didn’t want the game to dictate to players, asking them to do better tricks to hit a better score. You will have the option to look at a line and tackle it however you want. “This is something I’ve always liked about going skateboarding in real life, I look at that curb and it tells me ‘you should try a frontside feeble on this’, I’m not always trying to do that backside noseblunt thing, and this is something we’re trying to reproduce with Session,” he admitted.
Project: Session’s Kickstarter page is unfortunately still far off in the distance. The reason for this is because the team is keen to have a working, playable prototype which players can try out for themselves before pledging to the campaign, but they’re making progress. During our interview, Houde showed me the current prototype in action, and while it was admittedly rough around the edges it showed that progress was being made.
Since losing the game’s core developer last year, development has however slowed down somewhat and in an effort to secure some additional funds in order to actually make progress with the prototype and eventually the Kickstarter campaign, the team launched a Patreon campaign, however this was met with more negativity.
“maybe the Patreon was a little rushed on our end”
“I saw Patreon as an option for people to offer support to allow us to go forward, because at that time we’d lost a programmer and was really difficult to get stuff going, and the whole project is running on my own funds, and all the little money I spare goes on this project, and at that time I was out of money, I wasn’t working, I couldn’t find a motivated or excited programmer to jump into the project with us, so I had to turn somewhere to find ways to get these things funded or anything,” Houde admitted. “So this is why we went with Patreon, I didn’t want to propose a Kickstarter without the offering of a prototype, with a Kickstarter players want real stuff, and what we were working on at that time was a prototype, we still have lots of concept to validate before we go into production, so launching a Kickstarter wouldn’t make sense.
“That didn’t work out, maybe the Patreon was a little rushed on our end and we should have probably waited. So we decided to stop the campaign and refund everyone so nobody got paid for this, because at that point we were still unable to find programmers excited to make a skateboard game, this is really important. So first, finding a programmer for an indie game is kind of difficult, and finding a programmer who likes skateboards, likes indie, and doesn’t mind having a cheap salary, it’s pretty impossible to find, so we decided to take a break, re-examine the whole thing, and come back with a better plan beginning of 2016.”
The future of Project: Session and creā-ture Studios is a bright one according to Houde, they’re starting work on the Kickstarter prototype again, they’re sorting out a lot of things behind the scenes and hope to have something in place by this Summer along with the Kickstarter campaign, though he assured me that there are no promises here.
He did however confirm that they have indeed received an Xbox One development kit and have been in meetings with Microsoft to have the game playable on Xbox One. However, initially the game will launch on PC in Early Access. He also added that they’re aiming to have the Kickstarter live by 2016, but are more than willing to push it into 2017 if needs be.
“The way the game is currently designed right now, we’re building all of the cores of the project, all of the pillars, and at that point we grow. I think Early Access is a solid option for us but I’m not expecting to release a totally broken game in Early Access, this is something I personally hate with some early access games.
“This is what we’d do with the Kickstarter, we’d go with an Early Access version of the game as the core goals, then look beyond. I’m not a big fan of asking for $300,000, it’s a long ride and it’s a lot of money and sometimes it may veer out from what you’re expecting, so we’d prefer to go a bit more condensed and focused on one thing, like Early Access. After this we’ll grow the map, we’ll grow the levels, add more tricks, more features, and other things.”
The idea, according to Houde is to launch the first “hub”, an open world based on Brooklyn, New York, then through a series of free updates, add more areas, expand on the map, and add more tricks. Eventually once they feel this particular hub is completed, they may launch another hub, that’s when they may consider asking for players to pay for this expansion, however, when the game launches you’ll pay once and receive all additional content for free.
Project: Session is definitely one to watch, despite the game already having difficulties, there’s some definite potential here for a truly great skateboarding game, I mean, we all know what happened with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, right?
You can currently help the game by voting “Yes” on their Steam Greenlight campaign.